Jeanmarie Moore and her husband, Greg, never planned to adopt. Together, they had seven children by birth and were preparing for an empty nest when they got licensed to foster in 2004.
Jeanmarie says that after doing more “never-evering” than she’d ever imagined, she and Greg adopted not only once but four times in the last 17 years. Today, they are the parents of 11 children—seven by birth and four through adoption—who range in age from 11 to 39. The last son they adopted is the same age as one of their grandchildren!
Jeanmarie shared a few of the many lessons she’s learned about fostering, adopting, and parenting with us.
You can’t predict the future
The first child that Jeanmarie and Greg adopted was baby Nicholas. Born prematurely, he weighed less than two and a half pounds at birth and was deaf.
“We were told all kinds of scary stuff—that he’d never walk, never read to grade level,” Jeanmarie said.
Instead of heeding such advice and preparing for the worst, Jeanmarie became a strong and informed advocate for her son.
“I used to go to IEP meetings loaded for bear! It was scary. But it worked. Nicholas started to excel. And once we realized he was succeeding, we put the bar right where we put it for everybody else. And he jumped right over it! Today, Nicholas is 17 years old. He graduated from high school with a 3.9, and we spent this morning filling out college applications.”
Never say never
After adopting Nicholas, Jeanmarie and Greg were sure that they were done. Jeanmarie took a part-time job working as a foster care recruitment and retention specialist. She also volunteered to lead support groups and teach parents how to advocate for their children in school. And they kept fostering.
“That’s when our eighth child snuck in. She was so sweet. We just fell in love with her,” Jeanmarie said.
“Again, we said we were done, done, done. But two years ago, we found out that Nicholas’s brother and sister were in care and in need of a new placement. We adopted them the week of our 36th wedding anniversary. We were supposed to be in Italy on a cruise! Plans change. God laughs.”
Make cultural connections
Jeanmarie and Greg’s youngest son is African American, and she takes the responsibility of connecting him with his culture and preparing him for the challenges and dangers he will face in the future seriously.
“He and my white grandson are best friends. In their minds, they are twins. He’s eight years old, and right now he’s innocent to the extra layer that comes with being a Black male in our society,” Jeanmarie said.
The Moore family’s town in Washington State is not particularly diverse, so they drive an hour each way for their son to get his haircut at an African American barbershop. They watch movies as a family that show accurate depictions of what “can and can’t” happen when Black men interact with police. And Jeanmarie makes every effort to find and connect with Black moms and white moms raising African American children.
“I’ve even approached moms with their children in the community. It’s awkward, but I’m a sad old white woman! I need to do anything I can to educate my son.”
Jeanmarie and Greg have fostered more than 100 children over the last 17 years. They’ve had many occasions to seek help and advice. Jeanmarie says that the best support has come from other families.
“Fostering and adopting are super rewarding—and super hard! My advice to anyone considering this is to find other foster parents and adoptive parents. They are going to be your best resource regarding what is so-called ‘typical’ or ‘normal’ behavior, and what the best ways are to respond.”
Jeanmarie and Greg also find strength in their faith and each other.
“If you are parenting with a partner, you must have a strong marriage, or this will sink you,” Jeanmarie said. “Being able to rely on a higher power—to believe that things are happening for a reason—helps us tremendously.”
“If everybody who thought they might be able to foster or adopt did it, then we would have homes for every child who needs one.”
Know that your life will change—for the better
Jeanmarie says that had they not adopted, she would have been taking cruises and looking ahead to retirement. Instead, she and Greg are taking active family vacations—ziplining, going on jeep tours—and being active in ways she’d never imagined.
“After we adopted the last two kids, I lost 140 pounds. People always ask how I did it. Maybe it was God. I needed more energy. Now I lift weights, chop wood, and do all kinds of things I couldn’t do two years ago. I want to live long enough to see the awesome adults that my kids are going to become. And I want more grandchildren!”
If you think you can foster or adopt, you might be right!
“I talk with a lot of people about foster care. And many of them say to me: ‘I can’t do that.’ To which I reply: ‘OK, you know yourself better than I do.’ But when someone tells me that they don’t think they can do it, then I see an opening. Because to me, that means that maybe they can. And if everybody who thought they might be able to foster or adopt did it, then we would have homes for every child who needs one.”